Changing schools in the middle of your high school career is never easy. But if you have a good glove and can defend the middle of the field, the transition can be smoothed out.
Shayla Vegas transferred from Northwest High School in Justin, Texas – a stone’s throw from Fort Worth – to Central Valley in December. Joining the basketball team helped ease her into the new environment and playing shortstop for a fastpitch softball team that lost nine players to graduation a year ago made the junior feel right at home.
“When I first got here I was pretty shy,” Vegas said. “But Mariah Cunningham really helped me come out of my shell and put myself out there. She made me feel comfortable and helped me make a lot of new friends.
“Playing softball has been the same. I love my teammates and they make me feel welcome.”
“Shayla has been a welcome addition,” CV coach Joe Stanton said. “She’s a great kid and extremely coachable. She’s kind of a quiet kid and, to be honest, I haven’t talked to her all that much about what her experience in Texas was like. But she fits in with this group very well.”
In Texas, Vegas played select-level summer softball and her high school team played in the biggest classification. The game is close to a year-round sport in the Lone Star State, and it goes without saying that the beginning of spring practice rarely encounters snow in the southern climes.
Vegas shivered at the thought of the start to the Lady Bears season.
“That was something really different,” she said. “But in the end, softball is softball. You play the game the same way.”
“It’s great to have a player like Shayla transfer in,” Stanton said. “It was a nice surprise. But at the same time, our cupboard wasn’t entirely bare. I know people like to focus on the fact that we graduated nine players off last year’s team, but my junior varsity hadn’t lost a game in, like, two years and our freshman team is really good. Our program is pretty well stocked.”
Central Valley leads the Greater Spokane League. The Bears have a one-game lead over district rival University after blanking Ferris on Thursday afternoon behind an 18-strikeout performance by senior pitcher Carli Riordan. That after Riordan fired a no-hitter at Gonzaga Prep Tuesday while fanning 17 Bullpups.
Riordan allowed the Saxons just two hits. She used back-to-back strikeouts to get out of her lone jam of the game when Ferris loaded the bases with one out. And she closed out the game by striking out the side.
“Carli is really throwing well right now,” Stanton said. “The one thing we’ve been working this season is having her throw first-pitch strikes. She’s the kind of pitcher who can throw so many pitches and do a lot of different things. When you get strike one right away, you can pretty much do what you want after that.
“Against Gonzaga Prep she faced 22 hitters and 20 of them had first-pitch strikes.”
When a pitcher can dominate a game the way Riordan can, there’s not a whole lot left for the defense to do. Against Ferris, Vegas’ day amounted to providing vocal support for her pitcher and getting herself in position to field the ball in case someone hit it in her direction. No one did.
“I really like playing behind Carli,” Vegas said. “Even in Texas, I never got to play behind a pitcher who can be so dominant.
“In some ways, it can get a little lonely out there because she doesn’t need us to make too many plays behind her. And in some ways it can almost be boring if you think about it. But she doesn’t waste time and it’s fun to watch her work.”
“We haven’t gotten the chance to see a lot of what Shayla can do yet,” Stanton said. “But you can tell she’s played a lot of softball just by the way she carries herself on the field. We’re looking forward to finding out!”